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Are you worried about getting older?

Yes. But I am only afraid about getting older for one reason. It is because I will get ill and I will have to go to hospital and in the UK the National Health Service does not give proper respect and care to the older patient. This is what seems to be the case.

I don't want to be left on a hospital bed and starved to death because the nurse fails to give me food. I don't want to lie in my own excrement for hours until someone decides to clean me up. Or sit on a commode in full view of other patients on the ward. And I don't want the doctors and nurses to talk over me about personal things while other patients listen in.

I have heard some horror stories on the radio this morning from people who have had first hand experiences.

It appears that the NHS has a crisis in relation to caring for elderly people because there are more and more elderly people and less and less money to care for them. The UK is more or less broke.

People are living longer partly because the hospital care for younger people appears to be adequate. It is the older patient who gets the short straw. They are a nuisance and they are hogging beds. Hospitals want them out of the way.  The administration will do anything to get rid of them:
  • don't feed them - starve them to death.
  • or feed them but put the food out of reach! Same thing, different technique.
  • give them a drip of glucose laced with morphine - speed you on your way to the other side.
  • Put "nil by mouth" on the end of the bed even though the person is quite capable of eating and drinking and is starving.
  • Kick the old geezer out to be looked after by relatives.
These are some of the techniques that I allege are being used to remove old people from hospital beds so that the hospitals can cope. I'm scared and I will never put myself through that.

Comments

Anonymous said…
Michael,
I have worked in long term care, and it is impossible not to imagine my own fate if and when I reach old age. I have seen many of the problems you describe in the USA also, but I wouldn't say that it's a concerted effort to get rid of old people. It comes down to a pathetic attempt to save money in most cases. The skilled nursing facility wants to turn a profit so they hire as sparse a staff as possible to keep costs down. The nursing staff simply has too much to do. They are overwhelmed. Other times, the company running the nursing home is trying to do a good job, but they can't find enough decent employees to fill positions-- especially certified nursing assistants. I've seen the turnover in that field, due in large part to the fact that about 50% of the people working as CNA's just simply don't want to work. This puts all the work on the backs of the others and they get fed up and quit. They either find a facility that demands all the staff pull their own load or they go back to school and get into a different line of work.

Caught in the middle of all that, caught between greed and laziness, are the elderly. I would say though that when things happen, like where a person isn't getting food because he can't feed himself, it may happen for awhile, but it gets dealt with. Often it was the therapy staff who called it to the attention of the nursing director, but then a staff member would be assigned to that patient to feed him or her. I have never seen NPO used to starve somebody to death. Aspiration is a real danger and a direct cause of pneumonia and death. Every patient I've ever witnessed who was "nothing by mouth" not only had tube feeding, but also was working with the speech therapist to improve his ability to swallow food and liquids safely. This could not always be accomplished, but it was always attempted.

But no matter how good the care you receive, it remains a fact that we are all someday going to get to the point that we can't get out of a chair by ourselves, and perhaps we will become so weak we can't swallow our own food without choking on it. I will say that people who have been more active throughout their lives fare a little better, generally. People who have been very sedentary have a harder time in old age, or so it seems. However, I know of people who used to run five miles a day into their middle age years who today have difficulty getting up out of their chairs and need walkers and canes to get around. That's what happens when you get to be 80 or 90 years old.

I just try to be as active as I can now, build muscle, try to get my weight under control. There are some things I can do to make it better, but of course there are things I cannot control. It would be great to live to be 80 or 90 but the whole time your body never really gets worse than it is at 40, but that's not reality. I'd have to say that people who are not concerned with these things are living in denial. The people who mistreat the elderly, either deliberately or through negligence, will be elderly themselves one day. Perhaps this is what people need to be reminded of.

Ruth (Monty's Mom)
Michael Broad said…
Thanks for a really nice comment Ruth. You are right. I exaggerate a bit. I just fear the dying process not death. There are more old people and less money. That equals problems for us when we get old. I think I will have to steel myself and jump ship one day.

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